It looks Dallas Mavericks' billionaire owner, Mark Cuban, will take a financial hit this NBA season no matter how many games his team wins.
"Am I going to lose a lot of money this year? Yes. No question about it. More than $100 million when this is all said and done? Yes. No question about it," Cuban said on Monday in an interview with a Dallas sports radio station.
The Mavericks are one of many NBA teams likely to open the new season, which starts on Dec. 23, with few or no fans in the stands due to states' social-distancing guidelines stemming from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Though Cuban's Mavericks have not yet announced whether the team will initially be playing in front of fans at Dallas' American Airlines Arena, he said he hopes to be "selling out the place" by some point in the second half of the season.
"Hopefully, post-vaccine, life will be back to normal and everything will be OK," Cuban said on Monday. "Fans will be in arenas, and it wouldn't shock me if ... we reach a point in time where there's enough people with vaccines and everybody's confident, maybe it's March, maybe it's April, maybe even May since we started [the season] late, and we're just selling out the place."
(Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday that U.S. "should be in good shape" by this summer with up to 80% of the population vaccinated, however Moncef Slaoui, chief science advisor for the White House's Operation Warp Speed, estimates the U.S. should "have this pandemic under control in the second half of 2021.")
Cuban also pointed to the fact that the NBA will have a truncated season — playing 72 games instead of the normal 82 — and its later than usual start as reasons why he could potentially post a nine-figure loss. (NBA seasons usually begin in October, but the league had to accommodate the previous extended season, which was played at a bubble campus in Orlando and wrapped two months ago.) But Cuban added that the late start and shorter season are essential to get the league back on its normal timeline heading into the following season in the fall of 2021.
The "Shark Tank" star also noted that he's not worrying too much about the money he could lose this year. Cuban paid $280 million to become majority owner of the Mavericks in 2000, but today, the team is valued at well over $2 billion. Cuban's net worth is an estimated $4.2 billion, according to Forbes.
"Fortunately, I'm in a position where I can afford [the losses]. I'll keep on paying our folks, it's just the right thing to do," Cuban said. "But at the same time, we need to get back into our normal season [schedule]."
When the NBA paused its previous season in March, Cuban pledged to continue paying the salaries of the hourly workers at the Mavericks' arena.
Cuban says the Mavericks will soon announce the team's plans for fan attendance to start the new NBA season, but he noted in the radio interview that Texas' state guidelines would only allow the team to host 5,000 people in the 20,000-seat arena for each game at the moment. Cuban adds that "there's no reason for us to rush the answer," because he believes the team will have no problem selling out seats once fans are comfortable attending large gatherings again.
"While it may seem a little up in the air while we get through these next couple of months, once we get post-vaccine, it's going to be outrageous," Cuban predicted. "Because there's so much pent-up emotion and so many people looking to get that release and feel good about life again and I think it's really going to be something special."
Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."